Guardian Angel-15 Lars Hjorth, part 3 of 3

Lars and deMartin had their men cease firing and watched as men in strange green uniforms with high collars and big brass buttons began to round up the cyborgs.   They looked to Ethan like the Prussians when they fought against Napoleon.  They touched the cyborgs with a portable vibrator of some sort and then bound them at the wrists.  When it was safe enough, deMartin noticed and later remarked, the ship’s cowardly Captain and First Officer, escorted by several men with weapons at the ready, came to speak to the human defenders.

Lars, meanwhile, had his eyes on the farmhouse, and when he saw Angelica and Kirsten emerge, unhurt, he was greatly relieved.

“I doubt they will be able to understand us.”  The First officer remarked as the foreigners approached the people on the edge of the little woods.

“Nonsense.”  The Captain responded.  “Certain things transcend language.  These people need to be commended for holding their own against impossible odds.  I only hope they aren’t too overawed by the battleship and our sudden appearance.”

“The Cybees didn’t overawe them.”  The First Officer pointed out, but the Captain was not really listening.  Lars and deMartin came to meet them.  Yohanson and Jill’s favorite Sergeant and his ever present two troopers followed.

The Captain immediately smiled and held out his hand.  “Very good show.”  The Captain said as Lars and the Colonel willingly shook that hand.

“Early gunpowder.”  The First Officer made a spot assessment.  “No later than twelfth century, I would guess.  That was something we had not considered in the cyborg design.  Good thing the Vordan did not figure that out.”

“These Cyborgs are yours?”  Lars spoke.

“Ah.  Well said.”  The Captain praised Lars and shook his hand again while he turned to his officer.  “The man speaks the Lord’s tongue.”

“Are these Cyborgs yours?”  Lars repeated the question

“The Cybees?  Yes, I am afraid they are.  Renegades though.”  The First Officer was kind enough to answer the question.

“I am Lars Hjorth.  This is Colonel Orlando deMartin.”

“A military man.”  The Captain spouted and shook deMartin’s hand again.  DeMartin’s translation chit was slowly catching up with the conversation.  Lars, with far more sophisticated chits understood the Captain and his officer from the beginning.  “But, of course, you would have to be.”

The First officer interrupted with the introductions.  “This is Captain Rawlings and I‘m Lieutenant Chin, Naval designation if that means anything to you.”

“Chin?”  DeMartin noted the man’s features.  “Nestorian?”  He asked, and then he wanted to take back the word.  The Man could be anything, being from a different Earth.  Lieutenant Chin shook his head.  He did not understand the reference.

“Well.”  The Captain interrupted that awkward exchange.  “Good thing we came along, eh?  No telling what you would have done if we hadn’t.”

“Called in back-up,” Lars admitted.  “Though I would have felt bad about having to do it.  Keeping this world free of other world pests is my job.  Well, our job.”  Lars looked around at his militia unit.  He felt very proud of the men who fought at his side.  “To be blunt, we were in the process of throwing these Cyborgs out when you came.  I hope your intention is to collect them and leave.”

“Rather cheeky, eh, Chin?”

The Lieutenant nodded.  “That is our intention, and I, for one, apologize for their being here in the first place even if it could not have been helped.”

Lars accepted that.  “You are welcome to visit if you come quietly and without a show of advanced technology.  You can even settle if you wish to live a so-called primitive life.  This world is not yet overcrowded.”  Lars looked at Chin and glanced at the Captain.  “But you cannot bluster in here with airborne battleships.  This world needs a chance to rise or fall on its own merits, and I will not permit any outside interference on that score.”

“Permit?”  The Captain started, but waited when Chin touched his arm.

“You are the Gyan Guardian for this world, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Gaian.”  Lars corrected the man’s pronunciation.  “And yes, newly appointed.”

“That’s three for three.”  The Lieutenant told his Captain who suddenly appeared to take things a bit more seriously.

DeMartin took that moment to try his grasp of the language.  “I was just passing through myself when I thought my friend Lars could use a little help.”

The Captain rubbed his jaw.  “A fellow traveler,” he said.  “There’s a first, but I would not think your people would be sophisticated enough to travel in these parallel dimensions.”

“The worlds,” Lars interjected.

De Martin shook his head.  “Just a passenger, I’m afraid.”  He let his voice rise.  “And one who I hope is not in too much trouble with a certain gracious lady.”

“He’s not,” Jill said and looked up at Ethan.

“Tell me about these Gaian.”  The Lieutenant asked, taking the trouble to pronounce it correctly.

“Yes, what is a Gyan?”  The Captain asked as well.

“Gya was the ancient Goddess of the Earth,” Chin said.

“Mother Earth,” Lars added.

DeMartin shook his head, gravely.  “A wise and mysterious people as far beyond your understanding as you are from us,” he explained.  “They have taken one native from every world and made them guardians to be sure that every world has a chance to pursue its own destiny.  They are a heavenly people, quick to love but fierce to their enemies.”

“There is undoubtedly a guardian on your world, only you don’t even know it,” Lars suggested, and the Captain and Lieutenant Chin both paused in surprise.  They had not considered that possibility.

“And how long have you been traveling in the Worlds?”  DeMartin asked.  Their ignorance about the Gaian had raised his suspicions.

“This is our third world since decoding the Vordan registers.  You see, it is not even our technology.  It is alien, but the cyborgs stole it during the war, and when the war was over, they used it to escape and avoid being dismantled.”

“Why must it always be war?”  Lars asked, grumpily.

“We fought the Vordan to a standstill.”  The Captain’s pride was evident.  “Thanks in large part to the development of the cyborg regiments, but when the war concluded and the peace was signed, some refused to be returned to normal life.  The cyborgs, some anyway, actually considered their monstrosities to be an improvement and refused to give them up.”

“They escaped with the stolen Vordan equipment,” Lieutenant Chin interrupted.  “But their milti-destination codes were captured in the system.  It took us a long time to figure out what happened, but now we are trying to clean up our mess.”

“And we imagined the Vordan were the most brilliant creatures in the galaxy.”  The Captain laughed.  “I can’t imagine these Gaian you speak of.”

“Time to go,” Jill spoke to Ethan.  She tweaked the projector so their images would be dressed in heavenly white, as she called it, even as she said, “Bless deMartin.  I think if we put a little of the fear of God into these people right at the beginning of their journey through the worlds, it may save us considerable trouble somewhere down the road.”

“Don’t laugh.”  Ethan threatened Ali Pasha, Manomar and Peter Alexander.

“Don’t stick your foot in your mouth,” Jill said.  “I’ll be giving our projection some substance and your foot won’t taste very good.”  It was something like an out of body experience.  There was a flash of light and two figures appeared as if out of nowhere.

“Captain Rawlings.  Lieutenant Chin.  How good to meet you,” Jill said ever so sweetly.  “May I present my husband, Ethan.  I am Jillian of the Gaian.”

Even the gregarious Captain did not offer his hand for a shake.  He was too busy staring, as was the Lieutenant, and in fact people all over the field stopped and stared at this vision of purity, almost holiness.  Lars, deMartin and some of deMartin’s men knew better, but they kept quiet.  Angelica, who was just coming close, knew better as well, or thought she did.  Kirsten cried out and came running.

“Oh Jill, he’s gone.  Jill, he’s gone.”  She flew into Jill’s arms and Jill hugged and hushed the girl quietly.  Ethan picked up the slack.

“Colonel deMartin.  It is time for you to take yourself and your men back into the doghouse.”  Ethan tried to look stern.  DeMartin tried equally hard to be humble without laughing.

“Gracious Lord,” he said, affecting a terrific and most chivalrous bow.  “Most kind and gentle Lady.”  He did the same for Jill while Ethan, who was actually still back in the ship, touched the main and a white light shimmering door opened close by.  DeMartin made a show of turning to his troop that had already gathered up the dead and wounded and he marched proudly through that door of utter whiteness to disappear from the world.  When the last one entered, the door vanished.

“Lieutenant.”  Ethan spoke in the meantime.  “Please tell your Captain to close his mouth.  I am afraid he may start attracting flies.”

Jill had just finished reassuring Kirsten that everything would be all right, and just finished returning her to her mother’s hands, when Ethan spoke, and she wanted nothing more than to stomp on Ethan’s foot with all her weight.  Instead, though, she said a last word to Kirsten.  “Your father needs you, too.”  She shooed her off.

“Lars.”  Ethan called him over after the man had a chance to hug his daughter.  He shook Lars’ hand.  “I guess I have to speak for everyone when I say Godspeed.”

“I was thinking I might try to convince the powers that be to make peace with the Anglish before it is too late, that is if my wife will go with me.”

“I think that would be a wonderful idea,” Jill said, and she stepped in to give the man a hug.  “You did well.”

“Er, I think next time I will study the enemy a little more carefully and move a little more cautiously.”

“Wise.  But we will never be far away,” Jill said, and she held out her arms for Angelica who thought for a minute before she accepted the hug.

“Peace is better than war,” she said.  “And I was Anglish once myself.”

With that done, Jill turned to the Captain and his first officer.  “Now gentlemen, we know of the Vordan technological prototype by which you travel.  It is not our way to condone stealing, but since you have let your ill begotten creatures out into the worlds, we will not interfere, provided you collect them and remove them from their many earths.  Yes, we know the worlds to which they have gone, so we will be watching.  After your work is finished, you will not bring a warship into a world whose technology does not equal or better your own.  Am I clear?”

“Godspeed to you too.”  Ethan said, and the projections of Jill and Ethan began to rise from the ground, shrink and glow more brightly until they touched the nickel spot of their ship, and in one final flash of light, their nickel-sized ship vanished from that world altogether.

************************

Monday–only 1 post next week–Monday

Guardian Angel-16 Dealing with the Details:  One quick trip the cyborg world, and only 1 post for the week… Happy Reading…

Guardian Angel-15 Lars Hjorth, part 2 of 3

“We know of very few small arms that can penetrate your energy screens, and they are in the hands of five peoples.  You know the Gaian and the Elders, and I would not worry about the other three.  One is verbally supportive of our work to establish guardians, one is in a time of withdrawal where traveling in the worlds has itself become a divisive issue, and the Shinarites are determined to be neutral about everything and claim that they only wish to visit the worlds, peacefully.”

The cyborg Veek stopped firing.  Lars, obviously unaffected, spoke again.  “I order you to get off my world, now.”  He signaled, and the militia came up in battle formation.

“Of course, I would not flaunt it.”  Jill added as an afterthought.

Veek got angry and curious, but not upset at Lars’ survival.  He briefly fingered the gun at his own side, but noted Lars’ stance and he knew the man was a very quick draw.  He clearly decided not to risk possible death, even with his enhanced cyborg speed.  “But don’t you know?”  Veek said calmly as he made his own signal.  “Half the militia is mine already.”  About half, or more accurately, a third of the men came to stand behind Veek.

“Mexican standoff.”  Ethan mumbled.

Peter Alexander interrupted with another question.  “But why have your Elders not intervened.  Surely the cyborgs constitute importing technology.”

“Not at all.”  Jill answered.  “The cyborgs are who they are and what they are, and the Elders have nothing against visitors, or even settlers, no matter how intrusive that may be.  They probably did not bring much in the way of control collars and such, so they are not likely to be worth any attention from the Elders at all.”

The firefight started.  Lars caught Veek with a bullet in the shoulder, but then he had to run with his men and find cover in the woods.  Veek’s men went to ground or ran behind the house and out buildings.  Once safe for the moment, Lars signaled for Yohanson to circle with his men around behind the barn.  Shots continued to be fired from both sides along with an occasional energy beam from one of the cyborgs, but very few people were hit after the opening salvo.

Ethan fiddled with the view screen controls to cause the trees and buildings to take on a shadowy image so they could clearly see the men and their movements.

“Good.”  DeMartin spoke right away.  “He is cutting off any possible escape.”  Then the Colonel excused himself as if needing a trip to the bathroom.

“But how can they close in across those open farm fields.  It looks like a stand-off to me, too.”  Peter Alexander was concerned.

“They need cavalry for a quick charge.”  Ali Pasha suggested, drawing on his limited knowledge of military matters.

“Hand to hand would not be recommended with those things.”  Manomar understood that much.

“Look.”  Peter Alexander pointed, but they all saw it.  Something big was being brought out from the barn.  “Their parallel earth mover?”  Alexander wondered.

“No,” Ethan said.  “Artillery.”  He touched the Main.  There was a quick flash of blue light, and the artillery piece vanished along with the cyborgs toting it.

“Ethan!”  Jill scolded him.

“That weapon might bring the Neanderthal.”  He argued in his own defense.

“Probably not by itself,” Jill responded, and Ethan wondered exactly where the Elders drew that line.  He watched Yohanson and his men expertly turned back from their encircling maneuver, and then he watched the cyborgs as they began to gather for a charge.  Manomar was right.  Hand to hand with that crew was not to be recommended, and with their laser eyes, he had no doubt they could cross the farm field more or less intact.

“Forgive me, Jill.  I love you.”  Ethan kissed her and touched another button.

“What?” Jill moved, but she could not move fast enough to shut the doors, or maybe she did not want to.  DeMartin and his healthy troops came pouring out of two openings that Ethan had rigged in advance to be on either side of the farm.  The tide of battle turned quickly again as deMartin’s World War One vintage rifles began to strike home.  The idea of a cyborg charge was abandoned in favor of staying behind cover.

Jill did not do anything to Ethan except take Ethan’s hand and gently stroke it.  She let her nervousness come out against his skin.  She squeezed a couple of times, once hard when Lars appeared to take a bullet.  Fortunately, his particle screen was strong enough to deflect the projectile.  She squeezed again, almost harder, when Kirsten went down.  Yon Veek hovered over her like a mother hen protecting her chick, but then he took two shots in the back, arched up with a cry and collapsed.

The tide turned again when some ordinary men and women, either cyborgs posing as natives or natives rebuilt with cyborg technology, came out from the town led by the not quite dead Svensen.  They trapped deMartin and Lars between them and the farmhouse, and while the numbers on each side were about the same, Lars and the Colonel were surrounded and forced to answer fire from both directions with only some scant trees for cover.

Jill started a continual squeeze on Ethan’s hand until Ethan had to pull his hand free with an “Ouch.”

“Sorry.”  She went to put her nails in her mouth, but Ethan caught and held her hand to do a little rubbing of his own.

The firefight went on sporadically for the next hour.  Lars’ militia was obviously well trained, and deMartin’s were professional soldiers; but the foreign cyborgs became easy to spot after a while because they were obviously also professional soldiers; and of course, the militia cyborgs had been trained by Lars as surely as his own men.

Veek and his troops were trapped in the barn and farm house.  The cyborgs from town had their own trees across a back farm field from where Lars and the Colonel were trapped.  The only dangerous moment came near the end of the hour when some of the townspeople found a ditch that ran from just off their position right up close to deMartin’s flank.  Fortunately, deMartin’s troops pulled out some hand grenades, and though they did little damage to the cyborgs, they did scare off the townspeople.

By the end of that hour, few men and few cyborgs had been struck with any sort of injury.  The shooting had petered down to occasional sharp shooting.  There did not appear to be an easy way out of their situation unless one side or the other eventually ran out of bullets.  It was then that there came a waffling in the air.  That was how Ethan later described it.

“Incoming.”  Jill pointed to the Main where the vibrations registered.

“Elders?”  Ethan asked.

Jill shook her head.  “Not a recognizable signature, and there is no telling when the Elders come and go.”

“A new group?  Maybe more cyborgs,” Ethan suggested.

“I hope not,” Jill said.  They stilled their conversation to watch.  It was apparently a rough transition into the world and it was some time before a warship solidified about a thousand feet above the battle.  It was a big ship, possibly their version of a battleship, whoever they were, though it was not nearly the size of Ethan and Jill’s fighter-destroyer.

“Class M, one of their main battleships, the history is now available.  They are from the cyborg world, but they are not cyborgs.”

“I could have told you that without reading the history,” Ethan responded and pointed.  He had set a simple barrier around the whole battlefield so the cyborgs within would not be able to escape, and they were presently running, trying as hard as they could to escape.

“How do you know who they are?”  Ali Pasha asked.  “You said they were new which I thought meant they would be unknown to you.”

“This ship’s scanners reached out even before they fully materialized and read everything about them, their specifications, computer information, whatever histories they had aboard, cultural, social information, and so on.”

“And do they know this; that you have read them?”  Ali Pasha asked.

“Certainly not,” Jill responded with some pride, but then she remembered that anything much above horses and swords was equally remarkable to Ali Pasha.  It would take a long time as a guardian before he could begin to distinguish one level of technology from another.

“I take it the Gaian don’t like surprises.”  Peter Alexander spoke up.

“I would guess not,” Ethan responded.  Jill said nothing.  She was poking through the new information.

The battleship landed on the field in front of the house, and barely fit without skimming the trees or crushing an out building or the barn.  It was a well-piloted craft, Ethan noted.  They all watched as a door opened on either side of the ship and men with weapons came pouring out.  There was a pulse of some kind which Lars and deMartin felt in their chests, like a vibration, but it did not otherwise affect them.  The cyborgs, however, at least the ones they could see appeared to fall to the ground, paralyzed.

Guardian Angel-15 Lars Hjorth, part 1 of 3

“Are you sure?”  Ethan asked once more.

“He needs to do his job without depending on us,” Jill answered, as she always did.

“Lars.”  Ethan called through the projector without sending his image.  “The senior judge is in his office.  The collar is still present.  Godspeed.”  He closed down the communicator having borrowed Doctor Augustus’ word, and opened the door.

Lars stepped out on to the wooden courthouse floor.  He put his belt and six-shooter in a comfortable position and pulled the gun part of the way up from the holster twice, only to let it fall again into its cradle.  He looked at the door, like he considered knocking; but then he turned and waved to the air and showed a big grin across his face.  He knew the others were watching.  At once, the big man turned his shoulder to the door, and with a roar, he burst into the office.  The senior judge looked up, but only in time to see Lars’ big hand grab his collar.

Lars hauled the man to his feet as the collar began to disintegrate.  “Who gave this to you?”  Lars demanded an answer.  “Who do you work for?”

The Judge appeared to choke, hardly able to speak.  When Lars loosened his grip, the man sank back into his seat and looked as if all of the energy drained from his body.  He shook his head several times while Lars continued to repeat his question.

Jill interrupted the action by speaking to all who were watching from the control room.  “Those collars were made by a people on the verge of breaking into the Worlds.  They were made to interrogate people accused of some crime so those people could either convict themselves or clear themselves.  It was what you might call the ultimate lie-detector.”  She added that last for Ethan before she spoke again to everyone.  “The Sorvee picked them up at one point, and now they are in the hands of a half-dozen groups or more that travel through the Worlds.  They are so common these days, even the Elders pay them no attention.”

“Veek.”  The judge whispered at last in a barely audible voice.  Jill replayed the name so everyone in the control room could hear, even as Lars turned and left the man to his own troubles.  The courthouse guards were in the doorway and for a moment it looked like they might try to block Lars’ way, but they honestly looked uncertain about what to do.

“Lars Veek.”  Ethan mused during that tense moment.  “Wonder what’s up for Next Veek.”

“Hush.”  Jill slapped his hand for old time’s sake.

“Sjoren.”  Lars snapped at one of the men in the doorway.  “Raise the militia on the double.  Hans.”  He turned on the other man.  “Get lieutenants Yohanson and Svensen here.  Move it, soldier!”

Both men snapped to attention and saluted.  “Captain!”  They took off, while Lars went to find the other judges.

“Militia Captain.”  The comment came from Colonel deMartin, and he did not sound surprised.

“I don’t know what he expects to find at the Veek farm, though.”  Peter Alexander voiced his curiosity.

“Probably things he has seen which did not make sense before his guardianship,” Ali Pasha suggested, and the others agreed that that was probably it.

“What’s up, Lars, er, Captain?”  A younger man, almost as big as Lars came bounding into the room.  A smaller man who was more Lars’ age followed, but he walked more slowly as if to suggest that whatever was up did not concern him.

“Trouble at the Veek farm,” Lars said.  “And my drinking buddy, Bjorn, the Recording Judge is missing.”

“Trouble?”  The big young man asked.

“Treason, Yohanson,” Lars said and put his hand reassuringly on the young man’s shoulder before he paused.  He took a whiff of air, let his nose draw in the smell, like a Nelkorian, and he slapped the smaller man, Svensen and sent him sprawling across the floor.

“What did you do that for?”  Yohanson looked shocked by Lars’ sudden violence, but then Svensen hardly looked dazed apart from a small drop of blood on his lip.  He had a look in his eye which suggested he was going to kill Lars, but Lars had already pulled a weapon from an inside pocket of his jacket.  He fired.

“Why that sneak!”  Ethan said with a smile.

Half of Svensen’s face melted to reveal a skull of metal.  One arm and one leg from the thigh down were also metal, finely made, and apparently impervious to pulse microwave weapons.  The microwave also did not affect the man’s natural flesh—the parts that remained metal free.  Probably a screen strong enough to repel the microwaves.  Svensen was a cyborg of some kind, and the microwave weapon was not strong enough or sophisticated enough to do any real damage.

“I told Veek it was too risky letting a humanoid command the militia.”  Svensen said.  He looked ready to leap, but Lars was too quick on the draw and three bullets sent Svensen clattering back against the wall.  Maybe the cyborg had screens against energy weapons, but they were not impervious to old-fashioned bullets.  There were a few sparks in Svensen’s arm and from the metallic side of his head, and at least one bullet appeared to hit around the heart.  Svensen passed out and if he was still alive, it looked like he might not live long.

“What kind of creature is this?”  Yohanson sounded like a choirboy whose voice had not yet changed.  “And where is Svensen?”

Lars pointed at the man crumpled against the wall.  “That is Svensen.  He has been fooling us all along.”

“Veek?”  Yohanson put his thoughts together.  Lars nodded.

“And who knows how many others, but now we know that bullets can take them out.”

“But Captain—” Lars hushed the younger man and led him outside where the motley group of militiamen were hastily forming ranks.

###

“Lars Hjorth!”  Veek shouted from his doorway as Lars approached.  Veek took about twenty steps out to meet Lars, but stopped about ten feet away.

“Lars Veek.”  Lars returned the name with the addition, “Or whatever your real name is.”  He watched as Bjorn the judge, his sickly green collar still intact, came out holding Angelica by the elbow.  Yon Veek had Kirsten in his grip, though he did not look to be hurting her and she did not appear to be struggling.

“The whole militia.”  Veek noticed and smiled.  “You boys on maneuvers.  Can’t be too ready for the Anglish.”

“Cut it, cyborg,” Lars said.

Veek’s eyes widened a little.  “So, you know a little something.  I would not have expected anyone in this world would even know the concept.”  He spoke with a bit of a sly grin.  “But why should we be enemies?”  Lars made no response, so Veek continued.  “With our help, it will be an easy thing to overcome the Anglish.  The Dutch in New Amsterdam and the other small outposts down to the Venetians in Florida pose no threat.  The Danish in Vineland are few, it being a cold and harsh country.  Why, in not many years, New Sweden could control the whole continent, and our children could rule like Kings and Queens of old.”  He pointed back at Yon and Kirsten.  “Consider what is best for your daughter, friend Hjorth.  With our help, we can soon turn this primitive world into a futuristic wonder.”

Jill grabbed Ethan’s arm.  This was a delicate moment.  Temptation could be hard to resist.

Lars shook his head.  “I have seen what future wars can do to destroy the whole world.  That might also be called a futuristic wonder.  I believe the time to live in peace is now, before it is too late.”

“And the children?”

“The children will have grandchildren in peace and security.  You will take your cyborgs and leave my Earth.  You have unlawfully intruded into my world, and I have seen what our primitive bullets can do, so I suggest you leave while you can.”

“Lars.”  The man sounded disappointed.  “And I really liked you.  I was looking forward to having you as an in-law.”

“Get your metal armpits off my world.”  Lars responded sharply.  He always knew there was something he did not like about the man, and now he knew what it was.  “In my world we will rise or fall on our own merit, and that is that.”

“Your world?”  Veek grew angry.  “I would say it is my world.”  There was a sudden burst of energy from one of Veek’s eyes, and it struck Lars dead center.  Jill interrupted while the others had their eyes glued to the screen and they heard Angelica and Kirsten cry out, “Lars!” and “Papa!”

Guardian Angel-14 Distress Call, part 3 of 3

When the one by the Main finished tapping, the screens around the building went down.  Ethan went immediately to hit the recall button, but the man by the Main stopped him.

“Your recall has already been sent.”  The man spoke as he lowered his hood.  He was an Elder, but not a Neanderthal.  The nearest Ethan could come up with was Cro-Magnon or early Homo Sapien of some kind.  Jill put her arm around Ethan as they waited for the man to speak again.  He put his hand near Ethan’s face for a minute as if gauging something before he spoke.

“You have made him as a Gaian,” he said.  “I would not have thought the daughter of the former Emperor would have been taken by such, but thus we have seen.  We are watching you.”

“He is my husband,” Jill said.

The man smiled.  He had very sharp teeth.  “But not until you share your personhood, is it not so?”

“Yes,” Jill said and looked away.

“And you have broken many rules here,” the man continued and Ethan felt the need to interrupt.

“These people could hardly reach their potential if they were wiped out.”

“Yes, but perhaps in this world these artificial persons were destined for greatness.”  The man shrugged.  “We will never know.  But I will not quibble over flesh and blood, only remember, we are watching.”  He turned slightly and spoke to Ethan.  “Child, we were traveling the space ways when the Gaian were still playing with sticks and stones, five thousand years before their vaunted steam engines.  Never forget that we are watching.”  The man pressed another button on his watch and he and the Neanderthal by the door vanished, and everyone, including Ali Pasha, appeared in the control room.  DeMarcos and his men appeared in their rooms down below where Doctor Augustus was waiting to treat the wounded.  Kera Ann, Devon and William appeared in their lounge, and Ethan found that they were not only moved back outside of the building, but his view screen showed a night gathering of humans in a town some twenty miles from where they had been.

Ethan looked at Jill.  It was not exactly concern or fear in her eyes, but it was something near enough.  He wrapped his arms around her as if to say it would be all right, and from her response, he guessed it was the right thing to do.

“What is this?”  Ali Pasha looked at the spot on the floor.

“You.”  Ethan said over his shoulder

###

When they were ready, Ethan let the doorway grow slowly near the bonfire where a large number of people were gathered, and he turned up the brightness to be sure people saw.  Some ran off, others waited quietly or stared in amazement, some pulled out guns but made no other hostile moves.  Fortunately, no one panicked.  Ethan projected Kera Ann, Devon and William just outside the door, and himself and Jill a step back.  Jill tweaked the projection so she and Ethan were a little fuzzy and glowed a little like the door.

“Billy, put down that stupid weapon.  We’re coming out in a minute and I don’t plan to be shot,” Devon shouted.

“We did it!”  William shouted even louder and threw his hands up in joy.  “Type ones are restored and the relay station is no more.”  Ethan had checked and the building was completely gone.  It took a few minutes for that word to spread before the cheers started, followed by music and dancing.  Billy came up to throw his arms around Devon, but passed through the projected image.

“Back up, ding-dong.  I said we will be out in a minute.  And make sure we don’t get shot.”  Devon was being extra careful.

Inside, Jill and Kera Ann hugged.  They had cried together, so it was only natural to hug as well.  “We will be here if something legitimate comes up.”

“I know.  I’m sorry.  I hope you don’t get into too much trouble with the princess.”

“Silly.”  Jill had to smile.  “I am the princess.”

“Can’t I have just one, only to protect Kera Ann, I swear.”  Devon was trying for one of the microwave rifles or handguns.  Ethan had to shake his head.

“Not a chance,” Ethan said.  “Besides, she has her own defenses against such weapons.  She will be just fine, and so will you.”  He shook Devon’s hand and William butted in with his own handshake and word of thanks.  In some ways, William was like a kid, like so many computer geeks that Ethan knew back home.

Ethan paused as he had a sudden, strange thought.  He had been changed with all that had happened thus far; irrevocably changed.  In a real sense, this earth was his home as much as his earth.  All the worlds were the earth, his earth, no more and no less regardless of the differences.  Even the world of the Elders, wherever that might be, was no more than another earth.  In that sense, they were all his home, and they were all his people; and all at once, Ethan no longer felt afraid or worried about the Nelkorians, the proverbial Chernobyl, or any others who had turned to hopeless wickedness.  Suddenly, he felt sorry for such people.  It was a major revelation, and maybe the one revelation that the Gaian hoped the guardians would have.  That would certainly explain why they took guardians in training out into the worlds.

“Keep in mind.”  Ethan spoke at last to Devon and William before he let them go, while Jill commiserated with Kera Ann.  “You still have work to do, yes, but maybe on this world the AIs would have achieved greatness in time.  Maybe it was what your world was meant to become.  We will never know, and we broke a lot of rules stepping in like this.  Now, the world will become what you make it.  Never forget that.”

Jill smiled at Ethan’s little speech, though Ethan felt foolish after saying it.  Clearly, it impacted their three visitors and gave them much to think about as they exited the ship.  Lars, Ali Pasha, Alexander and Manomar also paused to think.  Ethan felt a little embarrassed.  He was a man of words, but it was spin; it was not supposed to be profound.

###

Later that night, Ethan and Jill spent a little time together on the roof of the Ridgetop hospital before they went to their room.  There were some men who needed healing, and Doctor Augustus, good man that he was, was reluctant to turn them over to a bunch of early twentieth century hacksaws.  Ethan imagined the world of Peter Alexander and Colonel deMartin as early twentieth century.  “Hacksaws” was the Doctor’s word.

“You’re warm,” Jill said, pulled in real tight to his chest and held his arm around her with her free hand

Ethan had a thought.  “All right,” he said.  “So who is trying to kill us?”

“Probably agents of my ex-husband,” Jill said.  “Don’t worry about it.”  Jill did not want to talk about it.

“The present day emperor of the Gaian people and all the known worlds,” Ethan said.  She turned his face so she could look into his eyes.

“That’s the guy.  But it is getting chilly up here.  Let’s go down to our room and get warm.”

Ethan did not move right away.  He considered his situation.  Here he was with the Gaian princess, her former husband, the current emperor was trying to kill them, and she had a son, besides; but then she was nearly a thousand something years old, so maybe the only odd thing was that she only had one child.  He looked into her remarkable blue-gray eyes and all of those thoughts left him without coming to any conclusion.  He could not think of anything but loving those eyes, and he decided that maybe they should go down and warm up before his thoughts overheated.

Guardian Angel-14 Distress Call, part 2 of 3

Jill looked at Ethan.  Ethan nodded and spoke before she could say something that would make their work more difficult.  “I would like to make a side trip first,” he said.  “We can’t send deMartin’s troops out without giving them a fighting chance.”  Jill raised an eyebrow.  For once, she was not dictating what they needed to do, and she was a little leery of what Ethan had in mind, though she agreed in her heart that they had to do something.

“What was the objective in this battle?”  The Colonel asked.

“The building beyond the battle is a relay station that William has determined to be the critical point.  Obviously, the AI understand this as well.  We did not expect them to be guarding this place with everything they have got.”

“Yes,” William interrupted.  “If we can get into the system and reprogram the relay, we can shut down every type one robot on the planet.  It will not end the war, but there are not that many type two Androids yet.  It should at least give us a fighting chance.”

Ethan jumped up and realigned the view screen.  He zoomed in on a distant building.  “Destroying it won’t help?” he asked.

“No!”  All three locals shouted, before Devon explained.  “William says destroying it will send the type ones into a state of confusion where they will probably start killing everyone and everything, human and android alike.”

“Birds, animals, anything that moves.”  William said.  “Our only hope is to reprogram it first and send the program across the system.  Then we can shut it down, safely.”

“Destroying it at that point might be safest.”  Devon concluded.  “So it can’t be re-reprogrammed.”

“Is there hope for us?’  Kera Ann asked in a most forlorn voice.  She, alone, really understood that this was out of line.

Jill said nothing.  She just reached out and gave the girl a big hug, and Ethan said, “Oh, boy!”

###

Ethan guided the point of contact to another world and set it to hover over the Ridgetop hospital.

“Ethan?”  Jill wondered what he had in mind.

“If we are going to help, we have the soldiers but not the equipment.”  He explained without looking at her.  He did not want her frown to interrupt his thoughts.  “We need the weapons to overcome the obstacles, and I am sure Doctor Augustus will be glad to get rid of them.”

“The Elders are not going to like this.” Jill shook her head.

“A commando raid,” Ethan responded, and in a sense pleaded with Jill not to object even though he was looking at the Colonel.  “Quick in and quick out.”

“That might work if you can get us close enough,” DeMartin agreed.

Ethan spoke into the projector, which took his image and voice into the lounge where Kera Ann, Devon and William were waiting, nervously.  “Sit tight.  We only need permission.”  He adjusted the projector to the holding tank where the soldiers were waiting as patiently as soldiers can wait.  Jill, Ethan and deMartin were all projected there.  “Does your army know the phrase, “Hurry up and wait?”  Ethan asked.

“Not in so many words,” DeMartin said.  “But near enough.  DeMarcos?”

“I understand, sir.”  DeMarcos saluted, and then they all had to wait for nearly an hour before the expected ambulance came to rest on the roof.  Jill made the front door, and the crew exited to Doctor Augustus’ warm greeting.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”  Ethan asked after things had been explained.

“Not at all,” Doctor Augustus responded, and he surprised them by adding, “I think I had better come along on this trip.  You may need my skills.”  Jill reached up and kissed the man on the cheek in gratitude.

It was another hour before the soldiers were unloaded and at the warehouse.  Ethan had pried open a case of rifles while Lars, Manomar, Peter Alexander and Colonel deMartin got the pick of the litter.  Even Ali Pasha armed to do his duty, as he said, while Ethan picked up a rifle and climbed to where he could be seen and heard by all.

“This is a microwave pulse emitter, about two chits in advance of anything those androids appear to have, and here is how it works.”

###

Two hours later, Ethan slid the dime-sized front door of the ship through a crack in a window and floated slowly down the hall.  It took another hour to locate all of the cameras and watch equipment and set all of the doors for the three-man commando units to activate at the same time.

“Wait.”  Lars stopped them before they started.  “What if they have a fail-safe to blow the building?”  He asked, animating his idea with a “Boom.”

Jill and Ethan looked aghast.  They had not thought of that.  It was easy enough for the ship to check with a quick scan of the building.  They found several booby traps, which were easily disarmed.  Jill and Ethan breathed again.

When they were ready, Ethan pushed the first button.  Several groups of soldiers had to climb up from the floor, and two had to drop down on ropes from the ceiling, but it was less than sixty seconds before all watchers, the eyes and ears of the enemy, were shut down.  Now the androids would have no way of knowing what was going on inside the building.

Ethan pushed the second button, and the ship’s particle and energy screens extended to encompass the whole structure.  DeMartin still needed to get men to the building perimeter to be safe, but the robot troops that were continuing to scrounge around the battlefield would not be able to break back into the building.  On the other hand, the robots inside the screens would not be able to break out, and that was where deMartin and his men would have a real fight.  It would have been a simple matter for Ethan to send out a little energy pulse and deactivate them all, but Jill would not let him go that far.

“We have already stepped way out of bounds here,” she said.  Ethan noticed her stiff upper lip.  She knew full well, some men would die because of her decision.

Jill opened the door for William, Devon and Kera Ann to get at the central control system with their program already loaded on to a portable drive.  Lars, Manomar, Alexander and Ali Pasha went with them as well as their trusty Sergeant and his two companions from the automobile.  It was a simple matter to start the program, but it would take time to download, and, of course, as soon as the new information started to go out into the relay system, and the booby traps failed to trigger, every robot in the place started for the control room.

“This will restore the “Help and do no harm” directive in the AIs worldwide,” William said.  “It won’t affect the type twos, but there aren’t that many androids yet, and the factories have all been sabotaged so they can’t make any more, yet.”

“This will give us a better than half chance of survival.”  Kera spoke through her tears of gratitude.  A near one hundred percent chance of success, Ethan calculated, but the world would be a very different and depopulated place.

They soon heard microwave guns going off in the corridors close to the control room.  Jill chose not to look.  Ethan had his finger poised over the hot button, prepared to place a second screen around just the control room if necessary, but Ali Pasha came in the door first.

“It is done,” he reported, and there was sudden silence throughout the building.  Ethan relaxed and Jill dropped her face into her hands, prepared to grieve for the dead.  That moment, however, was interrupted by a streak of white light that came in through the door.  Ali Pasha shouted, something flew from his hand, which Ethan immediately identified as a weapon, and then there was simply a smudge on the ground where the man had once been.

A second figure, one dressed in a cloak came through the door, stepped to the Main, raised his wrist and began to tap on his watch.  A third figure followed.  It was a Neanderthal, and Jill jumped up to stand beside Ethan.

Guardian Angel-14 Distress Call, part 1 of 3

They landed in the middle of a battlefield, and Ethan, at least, was glad about being in the ship as opposed to stumbling about with his laptop, unprotected, with Jill unconscious on the ground.  The time was late afternoon, and the sun was going down, but it was not yet dark.  A bomb exploded close to their position and they could hear gunfire in the distance.  It sounded to Ethan’s ears very much like the guns in his own world; but then Colonel deMartin and Peter Alexander also recognized the sound, and so did Lars, so perhaps it was hard to tell much from the sound alone.

A tank, or what Ethan judged to be a tank, came into view, lifting over the slight ridge that separated them from the main battlefront.  The tank hovered on a cushion of air about three feet off the ground.  At first Ethan imagined as far as getting around, and especially when traveling across rough country, it was a much better way than on the tracks or whatever one called those things tanks drove on, or on the wheels of a Humvee.  Then he saw that the tank was listing terribly to one side and having a hard time keeping upright.  Suddenly, two people came rushing out of the top of the vehicle and a third came out of a hatch in the front.  They met on the ground and began to run as hard as they could.

Jill dropped Ethan’s hand and ran both of her hands across the Main with incredible speed.  Ethan watched as a scoop went out from the ship.  It appeared suddenly in that world, and it scooped up the runners and took them right out of that world to deposit them gently in one of the lounges near the control room.  A moment later, the tank exploded in a flash of light far brighter than the late afternoon sun, and with a sound more thunderous than expected.  The ammunition store in the vehicle must have gone all at once, but the view screens adjusted to protect the viewer’s eyes and ears, even if they all recognized the ferocity of that explosion.

“Good God!”  Colonel deMartin swore.

“Agreed.”  Ali Pasha added his sentiments.

Ethan and Jill walked calmly to the interview room, and the others followed except Ali Pasha and Peter Alexander whose eyes remained glued to the view screen.  People began to top the ridge.  They were running away from whatever was behind them.

“Kera Ann Barton.”  Jill spoke first as they entered the lounge.  Of course, the ship had been keyed to hone in on her signature and adjusted their trajectory to intercept her tank.

“Lela?”  Kera Ann looked up.  “Where is Lela?”  She looked confused.

Jill paused, so Ethan spoke.  “Gone.  A Nelkorian trophy.  I’m sorry,” he said.

“Oh!”  Kera Ann threw her hands over her face where grief mixed with fear.  She plopped into a chair as her legs appeared to give out.

“Where are we?”  The black man spoke.

“You must be Gaian,” the white man interrupted.  “Kera Ann told me about you, but I thought she was delusional.”

“This is Ethan.  I am Jillian,” Jill said.

“Devon Crown, formerly of the NFL.”  The black man introduced himself.  “My little companion is William Renquist, and I take it you already know Kera Ann.  Now, where the hell are we?”

“Aboard our ship,” Ethan said.  “And this is Manomar from the Islamic world, Lars from New Sweden, and Colonel deMartin of the Holy Roman Empire.”

“Wow!”  William’s eyes went wide.  Apparently, Kera Ann had shared far more than she should.

“Colonel?  Military Colonel?”  Devon wanted to be sure.

DeMartin’s chits had not yet caught up with the language, but he understood enough to nod.  Luckily, Doctor Augustus had given him that translation chip for his reading beyond the assistance chits Jill had given him.

“We need all the military help we can get.  I don’t suppose you brought your army.”

DeMartin looked at Ethan.  He did not catch enough of what was being asked.  Ethan assured him it was fine to keep quiet for the moment while Jill stepped to a wall.

“Let us see,” she said, and a view screen appeared in the wall space.  People were pouring over the ridge by then and it looked for a moment that they were going to run right into the view screen, but instead, ran out of sight beneath their position.  Jill touched a point on the screen and a second screen behind them lit up to reveal the people streaming away with all speed.  Weapons were being abandoned.  It was clearly a route.

When they all looked back to the ridge, they saw why.  A metal monster on four metal legs rose up behind the rise.  The main section of the monster stood about twenty feet off the ground, and it sent out occasional pulses of what had to be an honest to goodness laser weapon of some sort.  It looked like a red light that fried people, and it appeared to be doing its best to fry as many people as possible.  Ethan thought it looked like a combination of something out of Star Wars and a Wellsian tripod.  No wonder the people with simple bullet type weapons ran.

Ethan did not hesitate to call a section of the Main to his position in the ship.  He felt like a child with a brand-new toy.  His hands stumbled across the controls, but in a moment, the metal monster vaporized.  Jill stayed his hand from further intervention.

“Yes!  Yes!”  Devon shouted.  Kera Ann cried.  William jumped in delight when Jill shut down the view and turned to face the trio.

“Now, what is this all about?”  She asked, sternly.  She exhaled, grabbed Ethan’s hand and dragged him to sit beside her on the couch.  “My husband can be impulsive at times,” she said, almost as an apology.  “Sit,” she commanded.  “Talk.”

Devon, William and Kera Ann who was shocked out of her cry by the hard words, all sat quietly, like children properly scolded.  Manomar and Lars stayed in their usual position by the door, even when Alexander and Ali Pasha came in to take seats in the rear.  Colonel deMartin sat next to Ethan.  He slowly grasped what was being said, and he eventually came to fully understand the pseudo-British tongue as things proceeded.

“We are fighting for our lives!”  William started things by shouting and acted as if that much should be obvious to everyone.  “The human race is facing extinction.”

“I don’t know what planet you alien creatures are from.”  Devon spoke in a more controlled tone.  “But we need all the help we can get.”

“I assure you, we are as human as you,” Jill said plainly, whether Devon believed her or not.

Devon’s face said he was not sure what he believed, but he tried to explain all the same.  “William has been able to overcome some small brains, like in the tank, but most AIs, that is artificial intelligences, are too smart for his hacking abilities.  Our only hope is to shut them down, and anything you can do would be appreciated.  This ship, any men, weapons, technical help would be much appreciated.”  He repeated himself.

“Kera Ann.”  Jill turned from the football player and spoke to the woman.  Kera Ann raised her hand for her companions to be quiet.

“This is my place to explain,” Kera Ann said.  She looked at Devon and William.  “Please don’t interrupt.”  She turned to Jill and Ethan, acknowledging them both with a slight tip of her head.  “I do not know if these Gaian will be able to help us.  This is not an intrusion.  I am sorry if I overstepped my bounds by calling you.”

“You are the guardian for this world.”  Ethan knew that, so the word was more of a statement than a question.

“Yes.”  Kera Ann spoke, and Jill put her hand on Ethan’s knee to suggest that he should hold his tongue and listen as Kera Ann opened up.

“This world got an unnatural early jump start on artificial intelligence, before there were other fail safe measures in place.”  William looked like he wanted to object, but Kera Ann hushed him.  “Lela noted this when she was here, and we talked about potential scenarios.  The worst has come to pass.  The type one robots of her day have become type two androids, and they have rebelled and appear determined to wipe out the human race, beginning with the military.”

“When was Lela here?’  Ethan just had to ask.

“Forty, almost fifty years ago.”  Kera Ann responded, and her companions looked at her suddenly as if through new eyes.  The girl had the appearance of someone who was barely twenty-one.

“And the androids are very hard to kill.”  Devon interrupted without turning his eyes from Kera Ann the girl, or old woman, or whatever she was.  “It takes an almost perfect shot between the eyes to destroy enough brain functions to take them down.”  He quieted then and put his hands up as if to say he would not interrupt again.

Kera Ann resumed.  “There are military units scattered all over the world, but they are isolated and disorganized.  Most of the officers were the first to go, and the command and communications centers are all AI controlled.  In fact, most of life has become AI dependent, from the farms, to the bus drivers, to almost everything.”

“I am a computer specialist, but I can’t break into the higher functions.”  William said, not quite understanding that he was not supposed to talk.

“You know Gaian policy and the way of the guardians,” Jill responded.  “It is not our way to interfere with internal problems.  Each world must rise or fall on its own merits.  Our place is to secure the worlds from outside intrusion to be sure that each world has that chance to meet its own destiny.”

“Then you condemn us to extinction.”  Kera Ann looked down at her hands in her lap.  “The chits I was given, the mixed blessing and curse that they are, have almost certainly calculated that the human race will be wiped out without help.  I called out for Lela as a last resort.”

“I am sorry,” Jill said, sadly.  “But we cannot directly interfere.”

“But I can,” deMartin interrupted.  “I am neither Gaian nor a guardian.”

Guardian Angel-13 Gaian and Guardians, part 3 of 3

“We have to go,” Jill said, and she shared a small chit in her kiss, which gave Ethan a full understanding of the distress call; what there was to be understood.  The guardian was Kera Ann Barton, a former secretary in a bank, and she was calling for help from a world where artificial intelligence got an accidental, very early start.

“We have to go,” Ethan said to the others, interrupting their conversation.  “It seems some are caught in yet another war.”

“DeMarcos.”  The Colonel did not hesitate.  “Gather the three hundred, yesterday, and get them here prepared for battle.”

“Sir.”  DeMarcos stood.  At last, this was something he could understand.

“No, just Ethan and I,” Jill tried.  “We don’t know exactly what the problem is, but if we need help, we can signal ship to ship and bring in the help we need.”

“Not a chance,” Alexander said with a smile.  “We have just been discussing the possibilities and it is important for us to see.

“For our learning,” Ali Pasha interjected.

“Don’t even think about leaving us here while you go off traveling without us,” Lars agreed.

“Besides, I must see with my own eyes,” Ali Pasha added.

Jill and Ethan looked at Manomar.  He smiled.  “I go where you go.”  He spoke calmly, as if that was a given and they had no choice.

“Ethan?”  Jill looked up at him, but Ethan shook his head.

“We don’t know what we are facing,” he said.  “If it turns out to be nothing, everyone can stay on the ship.  I understand the need for trainees to have exposure to other worlds, and no more exposure than necessary, but unless you held something back in your communication chit, I would not mind having the others along, and a unit of trained soldiers besides.”

“You are all hopeless,” Jill said and she returned to her comfortable spot in Ethan’s shoulder.  “I only wish Doctor Grimly were here.”

“Why him?”  Ethan wondered.

“He is the guardian for your world,” she said.  “And he also needs the experience of real time confrontation to understand his job.”

“He is the guardian?”  Ethan asked, and he suddenly felt both relieved, foolish, and a little frightened to think that this beautiful creature actually loved him as she said.

“Of course, what did you think?”  She looked up at him again.

“I thought.”  Ethan’s tongue stumbled.  “I didn’t think.”  He paused and watched Jill’s perfect blue-gray eyes grow big with understanding.

“Oh.”  She breathed as she realized what he must have been thinking.  “I never made it clear.”  Her own tongue began to cramp.  “I’m sorry.  You must have felt.”  She could not bring her mouth to say the word used, but she honestly understood.  He must have thought he was to be the guardian for his world and as far as their relationship went; what could he have thought?

“I didn’t want to lose you,” he said.

“Oh, Ethan.  I am so sorry.  I have given you everything a native Gaian has, not just guardian chits.  I thought you knew that.  You have everything but three, my work chit, Lela’s work chit and my personal chit.”

Ethan paused to think.  “And when we share our personal chits, we will be really married.”  He understood.

“Really and truly married,” she said with genuine longing in her voice as they stood and she turned to face him.

“Jill, I am so sorry I doubted you.”  He placed his arms gently on her shoulders for emphasis.

“Ethan, I am so sorry I misled you.”  Her hands were in his chest.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry.”  Both felt a gentle push from behind, Manomar on Ethan’s back and Lars on Jill’s back.  Lars was the one who spoke.

“Would you two hurry up and kiss.  Soldiers are already beginning to show up.”  The Sergeant from the automobile ride was in the doorway with his two fellow riders and deMartin came back to the table.

“This won’t take long,” he said.  “What did I miss?”  Jill and Ethan both heard but they were busy, and the others were smiling too hard to answer right away.

###

It took, in fact, about an hour before the soldiers all arrived.  Jill held tight to Ethan’s hand and went to instruct the officers while Ethan tried his key.  The door reformed, but this time Ethan left it against the wall.  Then he had to slide the door along the class three ship to the right location.  When he had it where he wanted it, he played with the key to return the door to its’ normal pure white glowing appearance.  He turned his eyes to Captain deMarcos and smiled while Jill spoke.

“You will find the crew quarters inside.  It includes a lounge and rooms with bunks and comfortable berths.  Please confine yourselves to that portion of the ship, and if you want something to eat or drink, just ask.  The ship is programmed to supply your needs and will direct you.  There are also view ports, but I doubt you will see much until we arrive.”

“In there?”  DeMarcos doubted it.

Colonel deMartin laughed.  “Sergeant,” he said, and the Sergeant reached for the shimmering door.

“Excuse me, Captain.”  He squeezed by and went in, followed by his two and then the rest.  After a moment of hesitation, deMarcos also took a deep breath and followed.  Ethan, meanwhile, had fiddled with the key and figured out how to open a second door.

“Any who wish to ride with the troops are welcome,” he said.  “The crew’s quarters are much more comfortable than the control room.”  He paused.  “Of course there are lounge rooms and quarters behind the control room, too.”  He realized he knew more than he thought; only he had to ask the right questions to get at that information.

Everyone declined his offer to ride with the troops.  They went into the control room, and Jill immediately took Ethan to the Main.  Alexander and deMartin took up their spot by the viewport.  Lars and Manomar were content to stand by the door, and Ali Pasha interrupted with a question.

“How do we get from here to the lounge?”

Jill turned and pointed to a blank space on the wall.  It was a door, but built so perfectly into the wall, no one would know unless they already knew.  Once she pointed, the door outline was made visible and Ali Pasha nodded.  The Colonel’s military mind went a step further.

“Any enemy in the control room would have a hard time finding their way into the rest of the ship,” he said, and Jill mimicked Ali Pasha’s nod.

“There,” Ethan interrupted.  He let Jill check his work before he engaged the ship.  The men were all loaded by then and their door was temporarily deleted.  He had shrunk the front door to the size of a nickel, and was ready to go.  Jill smiled and activated the system herself while Ethan held her free hand.  As far as he was concerned, he was never going to let go again.

************************

Be sure to return Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) for Guardian Angel-14, Distress Call.

Happy Reading…

 

Guardian Angel-13 Gaian and Guardians, part 2 of 3

Jill was exceptionally quiet during lunch.  She had a lot of information to process through her chits.  Upon entering Lela’s ship, Ethan’s chits also caught up with all of the most up-to-date information of the Gaian people, or at least what Lela had processed since her last contact with home.  That current history triggered the whole recent history of the Gaian people in general which went running through Ethan’s mind at a rapid pace.  Jill, however, had swallowed Lela’s back-up work chit, so besides getting up dates from home, she had to process through all of the worlds Lela had been to, all of the Guardians she had established, and all of the work that was left undone.  Fortunately, the others were occupied, being very animated about their adventures, though poor Captain deMarcos was hardly able to follow most of it.  Inevitably, the question came.

“Who are these Nelkorians?”

“A people the Gaian destroyed long ago.”  Ethan answered for Jill.  He took her hand and let her rest her head on his shoulder.  “Only they missed a few.”  He considered that revelation.  The Elders was the name he now knew belonged to his Neanderthal and, to his surprise, some other proto-human people; but apparently those Elders missed a few Nelkorians as well.  Ethan understood that in general, the Elders, like Jill’s people, felt that the people in the worlds should rise or fall on their own merits and thus they stood firmly against the importation of technology for which the local world might not be ready.  Curiously, they were less inclined to stand against one world invading another, but in the case of the Nelkorians, they agreed that the risk of destruction to the worlds was too great.  But the Elders missed a few as well, and that told Ethan that even they were not infallible.

“Gaian?”  Alexander was asking.

“Lord?”  Manomar nudged Ethan.  Somewhere along the line, Manomar decided that Lord and Lady were appropriate titles of respect for Ethan and Jill.  To the others, they were still plain Jill and Ethan, but the others did not object to Manomar’s designation.  “Lord?”

Ethan shook himself free of his own thoughts and looked up.

Alexander tried again.  “Gaian people?”

Ethan nodded slightly and looked at Jill before he spoke.  She had her eyes closed, but she was not sleeping.  “Like everyone, they simply call themselves human beings and their world earth, but in the worlds they are known as the Gaian people.”  He looked at Peter Alexander who probably got enough information from Lela to ask the question.  Ethan looked around at the rest of the strange collection of people and ended with a look at Manomar.  He noted that the others knew nothing about it at all.  “Her mother’s name was Gaia and her father was what you would call Emperor of the known worlds.  Jillian was born on the same day they discovered the alternate earths.”

“Known worlds?”  Ali Pasha wondered if he misunderstood the phrase.

“Not alternate Earths.”  Ethan pointed up toward the ceiling and Lars got it immediately.

“The Stars!”  Lars shouted.  “I always wanted to travel,” he said, confidentially to Manomar.  Ali Pasha looked distressed.  Up until then, he had continued to think of the stars as Allah’s windows to heaven whose light was allowed to shine into the darkness.  Ethan knew that Ali Pasha would have some processing of his own to do.  Thus far, Ethan thought he had done rather well, considering he had the furthest to go in restructuring his mind and the way he always understood the world to be.

“But Gaian?”  Colonel deMartin took up where Peter Alexander left off.

“Yes.”  Ethan said and pulled himself together to speak.  “When the explorers first went into the worlds, they called themselves Gaian, the explorers of Gaia in honor of their queen.”

“I’m glad they did not call themselves Jillians,” Jill mumbled.

“In honor of her birth,” Ethan told the others, and then he answered the unspoken question.  “The Gaian discovered the Nelkorians about three hundred years ago.  The Nelkorians were preparing to spread across the worlds, and Jill’s people understood that they had to be stopped.  The Emperor gathered the fleets from the frontiers.  The ship.”  Ethan pointed to the picture of the door on the wall.  “It is a class three fighter-destroyer, much bigger than the little control room we saw.  The Gaian tracked the Nelkorians across the worlds, and concluded the war after about a hundred years, though some say there are still searchers in the far-away places.”

“They missed a few,” Alexander said.

Ethan nodded.  “I guess those far-away searchers suspected as much.”

Jill sat up and looked at the Cherokee and the colonel.  She spoke sharply, but her eyes were not exactly in focus, like a person speaking out of a trance.  “Beware of any children born without faces.  You must watch carefully over the next year, and destroy any you find.  Do not be tempted to believe they can be turned to good, no matter what they say.  Such power inevitably corrupts absolutely.  They must be utterly destroyed.”  She closed her eyes again and leaned back into Ethan’s shoulder while Alexander and deMartin passed a look.  They had not considered that there might be others, and in fact they both pictured that there might be one or more presently in the Old World even as they spoke.

“So, Gaian is a name in honor of Jill’s mother.”  Lars brought them back to the subject.

Ethan confirmed that, and then fell again into his own thoughts while the others began to speculate on what other challenges might be out there in the Worlds.

Ethan considered that at the conclusion of the war, Gaia, the one who led the charge against the Nelkorians got killed, and Jill’s father virtually shut down the explorations of the Worlds as a result.  “It is too dangerous,” the man said.  “And it is not our place to dictate who can and cannot live.”  He was the one who originally instituted the complete hands off policy, and then he promptly died of a broken heart, or so they said.  Nothing else was ever proved, despite the conspiracy theorists.

Jill’s first husband took over, but then Jillian and Archon divorced over the issue of the worlds; but no, that was not strictly true.  In the scan of a thousand years of history, and as near as Ethan could figure things out, Jill and her husband separated when their son turned twenty-one.  That meant they were really only married for twenty-two strained years.  It also meant they had been separated for some eight centuries before being formally divorced.  The worlds issue had just been the excuse to finally end things.

Ethan reached down to softly brush Jill’s lovely black hair, to keep it out of her eyes.  She shifted a little to acknowledge his gentle, loving touch, but her eyes remained closed.

Meanwhile, Ethan’s mind kept him on track.  Her first husband continued her father’s policy of hands off, isolationism, but Jill took after her mother.  She knew there were some people finding their way into the worlds, like the Nelkorians, and they had to be stopped, because if they did nothing, one day it would come back to haunt the Gaian.

The guardian program was conceived.  The guardians could do a lot on their own, and stop most threats, but they also served as watchers for the Gaian who could not be everywhere.  The Gaian rebels, and that was what they were considered being involved in an essentially outlawed activity, managed to get their hands on a large number of warships that were brought in for the war.  There were many in the military that understood the seriousness of external threats and secretly agreed with Jill.  With those ships fitted with the transitional technology developed for the war, Jill and her rebel followers were able to begin establishing guardians across the worlds.  Suddenly, Ethan felt Jill’s uneasiness in a new way.  She looked up at him.  They were truly becoming a couple, becoming unbelievably close and growing to read each other well, and their chits went a long way to bring them into sync with each other.

Guardian Angel-13 Gaian and Guardians, part 1 of 3

After less than ten minutes, Jill came back to fetch the others, but even in that short time, Ethan, Lars, Manomar and Ali Pasha began to grow nervous.  They heard noises in the house, guard type noises, and the guards seemed to be wondering what happened.  Ethan guessed that the Nelkorian controlled everyone in the house, including the governor, that is, if he did not take on the illusion and play the part of the governor directly, and now everyone in the house was probably dead like the man by the door.  All the same, the quiet could not last forever.  Ethan doubted the Nelkorian wasted the energy controlling the dozens of guards, and thus the living guards were beginning to rouse and wonder if something was going on that they should know about.

“Hurry.”  Jill sensed the urgency.

Ethan was already feeling better, but Manomar helped him walk.  Lars, with his six-shooter reloaded, kept watch on the rear door while they all headed toward the garage that held the ship.  Up close, it looked even more like a mere glowing white slab no thicker than Ethan’s thumb.

“How will we all fit in that little space?”  Ali Pasha wondered.

“Transdimensionally engineered, I bet,” Ethan said, in reference to his memory of that old television show.  Jill smiled at him and helped him through the doorway.  They stepped into a spacious control room.  “That means it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside,” he told the scholar.

“Impossible,” Ali Pasha protested.  Then Jill spoiled the illusion by explaining.

“Actually, the ship is in another dimension altogether, resting and stable on a dead world.  There is a back door I could show you, but there is not much to see.  The front door is the point of contact in Peter Alexander’s world, and it can be minimized to the size of a single complex molecule and still maintain a presence in the world.  The standard technique is to minimize it to the size of somewhere between a quarter and a dime for travel.  That is, a small coin.”  She showed the size with her hand.  “Of course, you won’t feel any movement when we travel because we won’t actually be moving; only the point of contact will be shifted from one place to another.  That point can be shifted to anywhere in the world almost instantly.”  She turned and spoke to Ethan.  “It can be shifted to almost anywhere in the galaxy, but that takes a little more time.”

 Jill took Ethan by the hand and brought him to the Main.  There were places there for a left hand and a right hand.  “We are set to encode,” she said.  “I have taken Lela’s duplicate chit and reset the controls.  Can you put your left hand here?”  She asked with a sound of such concern for him, it made Ethan pause.  He wondered how much mileage he could get out of his injuries, but he complied and set his left hand in place, and he leaned a little, not that he did not need to lean.  When her right hand was on the other palm spot, the system activated.  “We are linked now with the ship,” she concluded and removed her hand.

Ethan stumbled over to a chair, sat, and watched while Lars and Manomar stood like guards by the door.  Alexander and deMartin, having been inside for a bit longer than the others, found seats by a screen which showed in a virtual three-dimensional way what was happening outside, and Ali Pasha walked around the room and tried hard not to touch anything.

The guards were finding bodies.  They burst into the room the ship’s crew had just vacated and one pointed to the glowing door in the garage outside the window as if something was happening.  “The door is nickel size.”  Jill announced, though they could still see all around the ship as if the ship was actually present in that world and had outside cameras pointed in every direction.  “Time to go.  We have an appointment in Elizabethtown.”

“Hold on!”  Ali Pasha shouted.  He remembered his ride in the automobile in that world.  Everyone attempted to grab on to something, but Jill spoke even before the shuffling finished.

“Too late.  We are already there.”  The view screen flashed briefly, like one might change pictures in a digital camera, and then it showed a perfect view of the inside of the Inn in Elizabethtown.  Captain deMarcos was there, fiddling with some papers.

“Wait,” Ethan said before Jill could enlarge the plain, white door.  “Give it something more in line with the décor.”  He was still thinking about the police box.  Jill smiled and appeared to think for a minute.  Then she touched a few places on the Main and made a gothic door looking of solid oak with scrolls all up and down and around the frame, and carvings of gargoyle type faces on the front.  It grew slowly from nothing to stand near the wall.  The door stood upright, but with no visible means of support.

“I would normally blend the door into the wall,” Jill admitted.  “But I like this effect.”

“Allow me.”  DeMartin grinned wickedly and got into the spirit of the play.  Poor deMarcos stood up, dropped his jaw and bulged his eyes.  The innkeeper came up beside him along with a couple of soldiers who did not know whether to draw their weapons or run.  Jillian cracked the door.

“Captain deMarcos,” deMartin roared, and found that Jill had put a touch of echo in the voice.  “Is that report finished yet?”

DeMarcos went to his knees and threw his hands over his face.  The soldiers looked frozen in place, but the innkeeper had no trouble running away as fast as possible.

“Oh.”  Ali Pasha stepped up to the front and shoved the colonel back a step.  “You are most unkind.”  He pretended offence though he appeared to laugh a little.  He forced the door.  “It is only us.  We won’t hurt you.”  He stepped out.

“Not much anyway.”  DeMartin was right on his heels.  “Get up deMarcos.  We have guests.”

“Sir?”  DeMarcos did his best to pull himself together, and the soldiers straightened up on sight of the Colonel, though they fell apart again on seeing everyone pile out of a doorway to nowhere.

Ethan got a key to the ship.  “Though you can think it to you and open it with a chit since it is tuned to you as it is to me.”  Jill explained as she pointed her key at the door, and the door pushed to the wall, shrank, and ended up looking like a framed picture of a gothic door hung some four feet up the wall.

Guardian Angel-12 Nelkorian, part 3 of 3

Something caught Ethan’s eye.  It was disguised with a masterful illusion, but he had his chits working overtime, trying to see a weakness in his opponent.  He knew it was the monster’s transitional unit, though it looked strangely fabricated out of paper and string, as Jill would say.  It was hardly the product of advanced technology.  He did not have to think, though, about what to do.  He had secreted a microwave handgun into his jacket and managed to keep it hidden, even from Jill.  It came out, and in a second he had melted half the unit.  The Nelkorian screamed and Ethan got slammed to the wall.  He felt for a moment like his insides were being torn out.  He put every ounce of strength he had into his screens, particle, psychic, energy, and even managed a final shot at the Nelkorian himself before the gun got ripped from his hand by a psychic wave and crushed into scrap metal.  He was not surprised the microwaves had no effect on the monster.  Then suddenly it was over so fast, Ethan could hardly believe it.

His actions allowed Jill the second of liberty she needed to activate the fail-safe chits planted deep in her charges.  Ali Pasha got the gun from his man who was disoriented by his master’s preoccupation with trying to tear Ethan apart.  Colonel deMartin and Lars both wheeled and fired simultaneously.  Lars’ antique heavy caliber bullets struck the Nelkorian square in the chest with three strikes which tore half the monster’s back off when they came out the other side.  They took most of the man’s heart with them.  DeMartin’s bullet struck right between the man’s eyes, or where the eyes should have been.  At the same time, Manomar’s knife hit the head dead center, while Alexander’s knife caught in the throat just below the man’s chin.  Then, not knowing what powers of repair the awful creature might have, deMartin pulled his saber and completed the decapitation of the beast.  Manomar and Alexander further divided the skull and brain as they retrieved their knives.  There was no way that Nelkorian was going to threaten or possess anyone again.

Jill was on the ground beside Ethan, crying.  Ethan felt nothing, which sadly included Jill’s kisses.  “My chits tell me I’ll be good as new in a couple of hours.  They wouldn’t lie, would they?”

Jill shook her head and smiled through her tears.  “Like a computer estimate.  They are not capable of lying, not capable of intelligence, remember?”

“Well, they moved pretty fast to keep me out of that thing’s grip,” Ethan said.

Jill nodded this time.  “Their programming is very sophisticated.”

“Microwave handgun?”  Lars interrupted.  He held up the scrap metal.

“Doctor Augustus know about this?”  DeMartin asked as he joined them.

“Yes,” Ethan said.  “He insisted I take it.  He was worried about Jill, and I could not argue about that, but secretly I think he just wanted an excuse to get rid of it.”

“Scrap metal now,” Lars said.

“So is the Parallel Earth Mover.”  Alexander spoke from across the room and used that name for the Nelkorian transitional unit.  Now that the illusion was gone, the primitive unit was plainly visible.

Ethan looked at Jill and she smiled again, without the tears as she spoke.  “I always liked the name Dimensional Watch.”  She shrugged and turned her head toward the chief.  “You need to finish the job.”

“Yes I know,” Alexander agreed.  “This must be completely dismantled and melted down, like it never existed.  I know my job, but God willing this will be the one and only time I have to do this.”

There was a loud moan by the door.  Manomar was there with Ali Pasha.  The black headed man rolled on the floor and he did not look well at all.

“By the Prophet!” Ali Pasha yelled and took their attention.  “Look!  The bullet is coming out.”  He tore his bloody sleeve.  He had been shot in the arm and the bullet had lodged against the bone.  They all looked.  Sure enough, they could actually see the bullet coming up to the surface.  In a moment, it clattered to the floor and Ali Pasha’s wound began to close.  “Remarkable, amazing, outstanding!”  Ali Pasha spoke with glee even as there was another moan from the man on the floor.

Manomar knelt down, now that he knew his Master was going to live.  He quickly turned the man’s head.  The man vomited all over the Persian rug and then stopped moving forever.

Jill held Ethan on his feet with the help of Lars’ strength on Ethan’s other side.  She spoke.  “Anyone possessed for a long time will probably not survive.  Theory says they die after a time, but the Nelkorian can keep their personality and body functioning for years.”

“You wiped them out?”  Ethan asked.  He remembered what she said earlier.

“Even the Neanderthals helped on that one.  Doctor James Nelkor perfected a technique for genetic manipulation and enhanced psychic abilities by removing all sensory distractions.  It was a monstrous thing to do, but then the monster killed him in true Frankenstein fashion and began duplicating himself in what he called his children.  If they had simply destroyed their own earth, it would have been bad enough, but once they broke into the Worlds, we had to act.  Even my ex-husband understood that much.  I thought we got them all, but apparently we did not.  I only hope there are not too many of them left and hiding.”

“You gave us the chit to escape them, though.”  Alexander spoke up from the corner.

“Yes, but it was dormant and only as a precaution.  It had to be activated.  I think that needs to be changed now across the worlds.  I need to get to Lela’s ship and contact the coordination team.”

“Right.”  Alexander stepped up and pulled his leather and gold necklace out from beneath his shirt.  There was something like a magnetic bar on the end of the leather chord.  It was not a magnetic bar, of course, but a key, and Jill took it and went out back with Alexander and deMartin to guard her, while Ethan sat in a comfortable chair and Lars and Manomar covered the dead.  Ali Pasha sat beside Ethan and still stared at his own arm.

“Wounded for the cause.”  Ali Pasha said proudly and he pointed to his arm.  It was a real badge of honor even if in another hour, it would be as if it never happened.

Ethan had another thought, and he was not smiling.  “I was wondering what might happen if a Nelkorian got loose on my world.”

“Or mine.”  Ali Pasha quickly sobered

“One Guardian per world hardly seems enough.”  Ethan thought out loud.

“I hardly thinking this was easy.”  Ali Pasha reverted with his words again, but Ethan understood.

************************

Next Monday, (Tuesday and Wednesday)  Some things straighten out even as some things get complicated in Guardian Angel-13, Gaian and Guardians.